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happy dance

This is a promo from SM Cinema for the new Lupin the 3rd movie


They had a Facebook movie promo contest where you get to answer questions as to which character was played by whom. The question is quite easy really but there were just so many people who joined. The odds were too great and I was open to the possibility that I wouldn't win. I have never won anything in any online contests but I had to join this one because I just really, REALLY LOVE Lupin the 3rd. September 24 came and OMG THEY PICKED ME! I won the contest question for who played Detective Zenigata. I was freaking out as soon as I read the result on FB. I was totally NOT EXPECTING THIS AT ALL. It was one of the most wonderful things to find about first thing in the morning. Haha! I was freaking out so much. I couldn't just send Duston a private message, I MUST call him to express how utterly excited I was. THIS IS SO AWESOME!

THIS IS A HUGE DEAL for me. I have never won any online promo and here I won a Lupin the 3rd promo. ME. THE LUPIN THE 3RD FANGIRL WON THIS! My dear friend Nagi claimed the prizes for me and this is just one of the best birthday gifts I am about to receive. Oh wow. Other than this, there will be other phases to happen to feed my fangasm on this. My dear friend will also be cosplaying Fujiko along with her Lupin gang. Oh, how I crave to be able to watch the movie very soon. I'm actually a lot more excited to watch this then the recent Rurouni Kenshin movies. Heheheh! Not that I am saying I don't want to watch it.

There have been some mixed reviews regarding this Lupin the 3rd film adaptation but I am going to have to find it out for myself. Although movie reviews can help to find out about things but I am not going to rely heavily on it. Movie revies and like mostly everything else is subjective. Someone's trashy movie can be someone's treasure. You just never know. I have all of the animated movies and episodes and TV specials of Lupin the 3rd so there is just NO WAY I am going to miss this and not include it in my collection. It has to happen. I have even watched the French movie Arsene Lupin (2004) just to tide me over but even this movie is so great. I am so glad to have watched this. Another great addition to my Lupin the 3rd video collection.

fighting neko

My first American comic con experience

September 27, 2014

We didn't exactly prepare for this I just happened to find out about it while I was Facebooking on 365 Things to do in Hickory and there it was. The entrance fee was pretty cheap and we haven't planned anything special on the day so I thought hey why not? And so we did. Apparently Duston also thought about the same thing and intended on surprising me about it. Based on the pictures posted I knew right away that this wasn't going to be a big event. But curiosity won over us and we went ahead as intended.

One car and one van were parked right outside the convention hall and it was absolutely impossible not to recognize it. The Ghostbusters' Ecto car and the Mystery van from Scooby Doo. What's even more amazing was there were two people who were manning the booth who were in full Ghostbusters cosplay. Taking pictures with the car was free. They only asked for donations for a good cause. They were accommodating and friendly. The Mystery van did not have any resident cosplayers in their booth but they had a lot of Scooby Doo merchandise and other knick knacks.

As soon as weI walked inside the convention hall,, it wasn't exactly any different from the kind of fandom events I have been to in the past when I was still living in the Philippines. But after having attended so many of them and I have been to several big ones, this Hickory Con is really small. Even the guy who was selling tickets wasn't exactly all smiles but he wasn't rude either. It was just a job to do. But what I noticed immediately was there was no music playing which was so weird because usually you expect OSTs just pumping in the ears of con-goers nonstop. Music was meant to add to the excitement of the crowd. All we heard through the entire time was the random buzzing of people. None a single booth even bothered to play their phone to get some music out. Nothing. It felt boring without it.  Nonetheless we were still very much eager to explore the area since it was our first time to attend one since we've been in the US.

There were cosplayers but only a few standouts. I was very happy to see a Deadpool cosplayer and that alone was worth the trip by itself especially for a DP fangirl as I am. We also got to buy four DP comic which I have never seen before. Surprisingly there were some posters from My Neighbor Totoro and a beautiful one from Vampire Hunter D. For Duston, we saw a really cool action figure of Doctor Who as played by John Hurt. It was hard to resist. The details of the figure was pretty awesome. As for the cosplayers, there were only a few standouts that I was excited to pose with. There was the very tall Bane, the sand guy from Star Wars, the admiral from Star Trek, Catwoman and a female Loki. There was also a pretty Wonder Woman but we didn't get a chance to pose. Duston got to pose with a Dr, Who cosplayer and he took pictures of the winner of the cosplay contest, Steampunk Robin who was indeed worthy because she made the costume all by herself and even the wings worked. Shamsa was really happy to pose with a Jack Frost cosplayer from Rise of the Guardians. As for the others, I tried not to get so worked up about authenticity since this is a country that takes Halloween very seriously and where costume shops are common. It was not surprising to see some of the kids there wearing obviously store-bought ready-made costumes.

As for the exhibits and booths, the artists and vendors who were manning their booths were generally accomodating and relatively friendly. A few of them noticed that we were new to the place. There were a couple of artists' booths that were very interesting although we didn't exactly feel the strong need to buy any of their drawings since we have a surplus of our own at home already from all the events we attended back in the Philippines. Some of the artists had the level of artwork that you would see in the popular comic books, Then there are some that had artwork that pretty much was the same level of newbies who still need a LOT of work and practice. I know how to draw but I do not practice. I know I have so much to learn if I want to excel but if my artwork looked like some of the artworks displayed here, I don't think I would subject customers to this. I mean I think it's quite nice to see the level of confidence on their part and share their talent but it's just not quite ready yet. The prices they charge for their artwork is really overpriced for the quality. If this was displayed in anicons in the Philippines, it would be pretty much ignored.

Lots and lots of toys. Lots of guys selling vintage toys galore. They sell more comic books here on display than anything else. They have more comic books and titles I have ever seen than anywhere else in the Philippines. Of course, this is the country where all this started. Most of the anime-related stuff seemed to be confined to Naruto and Bleach but mostly Naruto really. We just got really lucky with the Totoro posters. I also some Final Fantasy and Gensomaden Saiyuki. Some of the vendors thought that Doraemon was a Pokemon. Sighs. But they just really didn't recognize it.

We had a great time interacting with the Admiral from the Star Trek booth. He showed us an album filled with pictures from mostly Star Trek celebs with autographs. He had a story for each picture. It's amazing to meet a 50-year-old nerd.

We were looking forward to watch the cosplay contest and were told that it would be at 2pm so we went out to have lunch at PDQ. What's weird is that the ticket seller didn't bother to stamp us or anything. In the Philippines, it was okay to come in and out of the convention hall as long as you get stamped so that way you won't have to pay twice to get in again. He didn't bother. I guessed it's probably because there weren't that many people in there and we looked like the new kids on the con and it wasn't difficult to remember. Duston and I wore our DP couple shirts and Shamsa was wearing Doraemon. The ONLY kid wearing Doraemon and I was the ONLY person wearing a red DP shirt too. No one in the event had the same shirts we wore. I was also the only one with a blue head cap on too. So we had lunch but when we got back in time to make it to the cosplay contest, it was already over. Apparently they decided to just change the schedule. No big announcements. Nothing. We just saw this large crowd of people right outside the door of the hall and all the cosplayers were there just standing around and walking and talking. Although we didn't see all that cosplay poses and stuff but at least it was a chance to see them all rounded up together in one place. Some really caught my eye. They came in all shapes and sizes and ages. Some were just awkward to watch but I have to commend them for their courage. I give them far more credit than the cosplay-for-pay that's becoming a growing trend in the fandom now.

We went around a few more times to explore anything else we might have missed but there really wasn't anything else. We did promote our friend Omeng's clay products (my ring, our Mjolnir necklaces and the bottlecap arts). It was interesting to know that people were pricing it so higly and some even admitted, they were just NOT that talented as Omeng. If our friend had a booth here, everything would be sold out for sure.

All in all in a scale of 10, I would give it a 4. I give it props because it was my first American fandom event. I got to meet a Deadpool cosplayer! I mean what were the odds of that happening? I was expecting random but THAT was quite a pleasant surprise. He was in character the entire time since he showed up at the event. We got Totoro posters and DP comics plus the Dr. Who action figure. Interacting with the admiral cosplayer from Star Trek. A major letdown is that there was absolutely zero music playing the entire time. I don't know if it's because they couldn't afford a sound system but not even the booths were playing any music for their own amusement. I mean really. Not even that. I was exactly blown away with the exhibits. It seemed a bit all over the place yet confined at the same time. I think to say that they're the largest one-day comic and gaming event would be a bit far fetched because it really wasn't unless this is the biggest thing that Hickory has got then okay it is the largest. I don't think it's my place to judge and stuff since this is my first US comic book and cosplay event but it did make me miss the anicons I attended in the past. I am not exactly sure if I would like to attend another event of theirs if they have another one next year or whatever. But it was a good experience still. What we paid for the entrance which was $10 for all three of us matched the level of excitement for its price.
fighting neko
Let me get this straight first, I do not support the genocide that is happening to the Palestines in Gaza.

For a long time I felt very stressed by the news and images that flood my newsfeed on Facebook. I rarely post any comments or even post anything about it. I am not blind to their plight but I feel very uncomfortable of it. But it felt like I was not making a stand and that to me was even worse.

For the past several weeks, I have been posting pro-Palestine articles and images on Facebook. More and more that discomfort was leaving me. I pulled the courage to really look at the images and read the articles. I do not want to remain annoymous with my feelings anymore.

But when I encounter status post updates from friends who says that they are pro-Israel, I try to reflect on what is going on. It would be easy to just unfriend them for that reason alone. Yet I have to also consider that these people are good people who offered their friendship to me and they are people I also admire. Does this make me a hypocrite now? Does this mean I am biased? If I am such a staunch Palestine supporter, how come I am still connected with these people?

It is easy to allow emotions to get in the way. It is easy to just counter status them with I AM PRO-PALESTINE and ALL PRO-ISRAEL ARE IDIOTS. I do not believe that kind of behavior or mentality will promote any understanding. It will only breed discontent and even worse.

Islam ALLOWED EVERYTHING EXCEPT WHAT IT HAS SPECIFICALLY FORBIDDEN. One of the things that it has explicitly forbidden is GENOCIDE and TERRORISM. It's a no-brainer. It's very logical. It's that simple. People through the ages have tried to twist the truths around the Qur'an but failed.

Islam became widely spread through EDUCATION. Islam was lead by good example, not by the sword as some people continue to mislead others into believing. There is so much importance given on education that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said that the ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr. The first word of the Qur'an ever revealed to the Prophet was "Iqra" which means Recite, Read. That alone should emphasize the great importance of being properly educated. To learn things to improve one's life in this world to gain the bounties of the Hereafter. It is also that education that remains to be one of the strongest foundations as to why Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

I am not able to go to Gaza due to financial reasons and safety. I am sure that a lot of Pro-Israel individuals also are unable to make the trip to show their solidarity for the same reasons as those who are Pro-Palestine like I am. So all we can do is support our choices in whatever way we can with the hopes that they will make a difference in the lives of those whom we care about.

For them to make a stand is their choice as I have openly made a stand about mine. The violence that is gripping in that country is more than we can imagine and hope we never have to experience for ourselves. Perhaps knowing where each of us stand should be enough to make a point. If Israel cannot exercise tolerance and refuse to co-exist with Palestinians and vice versa then my being intolerant of my friends' opposite views make me no different than a monster. If I am going to cultivate hate and promote ridicule to those who do not share my views then I am just as ignorant and terroristic with my ideals.

This is NOT what Islam teaches. Education is key. I will not stop posting articles and images that reveal the plight of the people's suffering. I will not stop praying for their safety, patience, survival and justice reach them. Nothing in this world is random. Everything has a purpose. There is wisdom in everything if we only have the patience to see it. I believe that spreading information will educate and touch the hearts and minds of those who need it. All we can really do is spread it as much as we can.

Guidance only comes from Allah and only He can choose whomever He wants to guide to the Straight Path. It is not up to us. It never was up to us. We tend to underestimate His Divine Power and Knowledge. We sometimes pray to Him like we are ordering takeout. We negotiate with Him like we would in a flea market. We are so full of ourselves and think we know better. We tend to forget that even if we stretched our minds so far and wide that it would still be encased within creation. It could never be outside of creation because WE ARE PART OF THE CREATION. WE ARE NOT THE CREATOR. We forget that Allah is outside of the creation. He has no beginning nor end. We do. We are so arrogant and that has always been our downfall. We tend to keep repeating history over and over. Some of the lessons already learned, we insist on unlearning them to prove a point. It's repetitive. We are too stubborn to realize our own faults so we tend to project them to others and worse blame God for our deeds. That's the BEST we can do. Blame. Blame. Blame. We remain stuck in a loop of our own blind stupid ego.

It is that blind stupid ego that we ought to be overcoming. This is the true struggle, the true Jihad. The battle within ourselves. Not genocide. Not quote the Qur'an out of context and make a bizarre interpretation of it. How many people have done that for centuries only to be exposed in the end? History teaches us that war never benefitted anybody nor anything. We are all losers. Yet people insist that war is the only way to get all the answers. Never realizing that the battle isn't out there but simply within us.

So I refuse to allow my ego to override my senses and disown friends and family who do not share my sentiments as the enemy. Shouldn't I be calmer and in control of my feelings more at this kind of situation? I will worsen the situation by declaring war at friends and family. What will that gain? Yes, it is natural for us to panic and worry but we cannot stay in that state too long because nothing gets done. We should try not to react to things out of sheer panic and worry because we throw logic and common sense out of the window. Understand that there is a Higher Power who really is in control of creation. The Master of all systems of knowledge.

This is not easy. It will take a lot of patience and tolerance on my part to be more understanding. Allah has given us everything we need to live in harmony with others, why complicate it with misunderstanding? It is easier to promote education and information rather than hate. Hate can consume us. Education enlightens us. I believe in that. I believe that peace will ultimately prevail. I believe there is a wisdom as to why this is happening in that part of the world. I believe that only God can change all things. Not humans. We make a mess of things all the time. We keep repeating ourselves. We think chaos will put things in order. No! Being at peace is what put things in order. God knows exactly what He is doing. We cannot even fathom His Infinite Knowledge. It is impossible. What we can do is believe in Him and trust His Way. If we can do just that then none of this mess would have happened in the first place. 
fighting neko

Our Happy Face is four years old!

happy dance

On April 21, 2014, Shamsa turned four years old. It's amazing that this little bundle of joy was only two years old when we made this historic life-changing move to the US and so far so good she has managed to adjust quite well even way better than I could have. She has always had that strong sense of belongingness wherever she goes. That amazing confidence never left her even when she was a little baby. It feels weird not calling her a baby from time to time. I have to control myself from saying so in order to emphasize to her that she is now a “big girl” but she will always be my baby girl.

Weeks ahead I have been looking online for affordable kiddie-friendly events that we could all go as a family. Originally, we were going to check out the zoo in Buffalo Shoals but Duston found so many negative reviews about it especially as to how the animals are treated there. So we had a change of plans at the last minute. I can't believe that there wasn't anything happening anywhere nearby on that day. However, our friend AJ was also celebrating his birthday on the 21st so we decided to meet up with Marj and AJ in Udderly Delicious for ice cream and miniature indoor golf. That was a fun experience since playing golf alone is a first for me and Shamsa. She was so game and very much involved. We chatted afterwards while having ice cream. She was not really interested with the chocolate ice cream (her choice!) we got her and preferred the flavor of the coffee ice cream I had instead. But then again she usually prefers whatever I am having. I guess it's true, mommy's food always seem to taste better than anything else. I would get home with a plain bottled water and she wants it.

Since the goal of enjoying the day as a family is a priority, we had birthday dinner at home. Duston and I were a tag team in the kitchen and we whipped up potato pancake muffins, rice with refried black bean topping, and beef-filled tacos. It was a success! For dessert, we had a sheet cake with the design from one of Shamsa's favorite movies, RIO. I took a video while Duston took some pictures. It was terrific to watch her blow her own candles without any help. We got her Doraemon shirts and shorts for her birthday gift. Mama and Dad got her something else special which I am not privy to share here.

Since Duston was still on leave the next day, we took her to the clinic for her vaccinations. She tolerated them so incredibly well for her age. Of course, I held her on my lap since I never had any fear of needles. Though she naturally cried because of the sting, she didn't fight or bawled like uncontrollably. As soon as it was over, Duston carried her and slowly she calmed down. By the time we got to the door, she had already stopped crying. I am so proud of her.

And that's not the only thing we are proud of her for, she truly is an incredible child. She has become more vocal and chatty. She is still very much prone to spouting random things but she is able to articulate what she wants and how she feels. She has become more daring having learned how to do sommersaults from her grandma. She loves jumping on the trampoline. She is so friendly that she will approach or point at any kid around her. She loves taking pictures with the camera that her Aunt Tara gave her. She loves her cartoons and varies from English shows to Japanese anime. She likes playing dress up. Her favorite is still being a superhero while tying her grandma's night shirt as her cape. She likes making hand puppets from strings and recently has taken a strong interest with my skirt and turned it into a skirt puppet princess. She will burst into a song at times and then the next moment she will be shaking her butt and dancing whenever she feels like it. She has become more and more cooperative with the morning routine I have established. We are still working on the potty training but she has become successful for most of the week and that alone is a major accomplishment. She loves to listen to me read and she likes to pretend to read. She gets excited whenever she is able to write letters and numbers correctly. Her artwork has become more and more expressive and she has attention to detail. Her favorite thing to draw is still the “Happy Face” and whenever I see her do it, it somehow speaks a lot about her. Being happy. She has always been such a happy baby. Sure she has her cranky moments but essentially she is happy. She never fails to tell me and her daddy that she loves us even without being prompted. You could hear it in her voice and her eyes that she meant every word. It was not something random to say. She has always been such an affectionate child. We love her so much and may Allah bless and guide her always. Ameen.

fighting neko

Being a blue belt

I know I should have blogged about this but things have gotten in the way before I could. For quite some time I felt absolutely stumped from being able to articulate my feelings in writing about this whole experience. On April 17, 2014, Thursday, I was promoted to the rank of blue belt in Shotokan karate.

Unlike the time I went for my orange belt test, this time I was given at least two weeks in advance notice to prepare for it. Although I felt out of breath in between the test drills, I didn't feel as bad as I did last time where I thought I was going to collapse from sheer exhaustion, nervousness, hypertension and dizziness. My sensei had been especially motivating and his words were comfort to my heart. No matter what happened at the end of this test, whether I pass or fail, I was giving it my best. It's true that everything I have managed to learn in class have been engrained in my mind and the time has come to see whether I would be able to demonstrate and apply them.

I went through the kata (forms) as best as I could. I am not a high kicker. My left leg cannot kick as high as my right. I am grateful that through it all, I have not slipped and fallen which speaks about my ability to balance myself. I am not here to compete with anybody. I am here to pass a test and to see what I am made of. The ONLY validation I have is the approval of my sensei after all this. What happens afterwards is up to me whether to accept it or not. My family and classmates assured me that I will be able to breeze through this. I take comfort in their encouragement but I do not allow it to overwhelm me that I become too self-confident. The more confident I become, the worse I tend to be that I forget the lessons I learned.

After everything had been done from demonstrating the basic drills and the kata, self-defense techniques and finally the two-round sparring, I was ready to just collapse on the floor. I managed to calm myself down as I waited patiently for sensei's decision. I was actually ready to accept that I did not pass and perhaps I should try again next time. I am always in this state of unsurety after a test. My mind is used to playing up worst-case scenarios and I ultimately have to prepare myself for it. I have to plan my next move and how I should feel. It will hurt but maybe I will be able to break its fall so I would not shatter to pieces.

Alhamdulillah, I did pass. My lips trembled as sensei tied the blue belt around me and I tried to keep a smile as we posed for pictures. I should be feeling like the worst is over but really it has not. I felt the pressure that I am only as good as the belt I have received. There are three more belts to go to reach black belt. I do not know what is going to happen between now and then. I am not going to fool myself into assuming that I will breeze through it as the others have. Sure my classmates and I share the same class and the same teachers but our abilities are nowhere near the same. I am not a strong fighter. I pray that I will never have to be in a situation where I need to physically fight for my life and the life of others. Not because of cowardice but because if push comes to shove, I will shove back. I fear my temper. I fear that I will lose control. I fear that I will regret my actions. I fear the consequences regardless of the result. I have always walked on eggshells in a spar. I do not have the confidence to look at my opponent in the eye. I am more concerned as to where those punches and kicks would land. Maybe I should look them in the eye next time but that will take some work on my part. All the flashy and lightning fast moves are not me. I know me. Perhaps being a prized candidate in kumite is not my destiny.

But when it comes to kata, I am attracted to the self-control it imposes. The memory and coordination it requires. It took a long while for me to figure out which way I should turn and what my feet and hands should be doing before I finally am able to feel the motions. It is easy to be lazy and reckless. It is easy to not pay attention. It is easy not to practice. It is easy not to observe the proper sequence of actions. But my nature refuses to do so. In kata, I know in my heart that I can do it the right way. This I know for a fact I am capable of doing. I can follow the discipline. I may not look as sharp and precise as the black belts I see on YouTube and in class but I know that I can pull it off for myself. I can ingraine in my mind that I do have coordination. The kata is not a dance. I do not know how to dance. It is an enigma to me. A kata is different, the mind and body are in harmony. There is a logic to each move.

As I go further into training, my mindset is becoming further and further away from a fight. I am more interested with getting a fight done and over with and walk away. Perhaps this is why I like self-defense techniques better. The kata gives me peace of mind even when I make mistakes. I take them seriously because I know I can do better. I can do it again. When a situation calls for it, there will be no one on my side. I am all by myself to remember each step of the way. I am not here to impress anybody. I am flattered and easily overwhelmed by the compliments I receive but it pressures me more not to rest on my laurels. I am only here to learn and see how far I can go, how far will my mind and body allow me. That is all I can really do and that is all I can ever hope to achieve. Alhamdulillah! Allahu Akbar!

A huge thank you to my teachers for guiding me all the way and for their patience in keeping the class together and focused despite the odds.
fighting neko

My FIRST morphine shot

I am not much of a whiner where physical pain is concerned. I am usually the type to bear it and see how far I can tolerate the pain. I think this has something to do with getting attention from others which I am not exactly comfortable with. This is not to say that I do not appreciate the attention I get but I do not like to attract way too much attention just because I got hurt. If I can hibernate and wait for the pain to go away, I would prefer this very much.

However, this is not what happens when the pain becomes so severe that it leaves you paralyzed. The greatest physical pain I have ever endured was post surgery. The pain would be so intense that I get fever from it. The pain would be so intense that I become incontinent. The pain would be so intense that I become desperate for sleep that I do not dare have because no position would make me comfortable.

I am grateful that despite the severe intensity of pain, I have not passed out from it. I try to keep a small window of awareness of it. I need to feel alive. I refuse to give in. Even when I was under anesthesia, I tried my best to stay awake as far as I could. I did not wake up in a recovery room. I managed to wake up while the doctor was still stitching me up.

It has been four years since that intensity of pain has made me cry out and leave me almost paralyzed and utterly helpless from it. But just this Wednesday, I experienced it. Only this time it was not from my abdominal area but on my chest. It was excruciating, crushing and stabbing. Any movement I made including breathing made it extremely painful. The pain was overwhelming and desperately so. Thankfully, my husband decided to turn back and picked me up from the house to take me to the hospital. Each step I made on my way to the car left me in tears.

The pain was dead center in my chest, I could feel its wholeness and how it pulled everything together. The pain was horribly intense that it dictated my every move. I could only utter the Shahadah over and over to keep my mind away from it completely drowning me. If I was going to die at this very day, I refuse to curse the pain. I will not let the pain take me down with it.

When we finally arrived in the hospital, I was attended to right away. They took EKG and a chest x-ray. Interestingly, no one took my vital signs. They changed me into a gown and a semi-warm long towel blanket. There was actually more waiting than the actual treatment itself. They found out from my x-ray that I was developing early stage pneumonia. My EKG was clear and therefore nothing wrong with my heart. I didn't think there would be either. But the pain remained. They figured it might be musculoskeletal since I endured blows to my chest when I was taking my blue belt test last Thursday (hopefully, I will blog about this.) It could also be that my pneumonia got triggered as well,

The nurse gave me a shot of morphine and hydrocodone. One on each arm. Holy frijoles...the pain started to dissipate and I was getting into a state of heaviness and extreme sleepiness. I was given a 5-day dose of antibiotics for my pneumonia and some pain meds to tide me over just in case. I was weak after all that. I was grateful for my husband being near me. But I was so sleepy. Why people would even be addicted to morphine is beyond me! This is not fun at all.

As soon as we arrived home, all I wanted to do was sleep. I felt like being in the dark. Whenever I opened my eyes, it was sepia. Everything seemed toned down. We were in the emergency room for two hours, most of which involved a lot of waiting really. We got home at 1:45pm and I was asleep for six hours. The pain was pretty much gone by then but the heaviness has not left me. I still felt dizzy and floopy. My mind was swimming.

I am very grateful that I survived this. I am grateful for the support I received. I am grateful that this was not the day for me to die and leave my daughter. I am grateful for the wake-up call. It reminded me that I am not as invulnerable as I wanted to be. Alhamdulillah. Only Allah made it all possible. I do pray that I wouldn't have to go through this again but I am sure this won't be the last. Pain is a struggle of our patience in dealing with it. I hope I have been able to deal with it the best way I could at the time I was experiencing it. At the end of the day I got to experience another first in this country, visiting a hospital and getting a morphine shot.
fighting neko

I read to live. I live to read.


I do not know what is it about memoirs and biographies that fascinate me so much. Even as a child, I was more interested with what was behind the fairy tales, what happens to the characters after they "live happily ever after."  Which character or story was inspired from which real events in history. I have always been interested with why people behave the way they are.  What history did they have that triggered such behaviors. What kind of memories did they share with people or kept to themselves.

Whenever I walk into a library, the first section I go to is the biography section. It's like being invited into their house. I may have watched this person on TV, movies and even read his/her works but once a biography or memoir is released about them, I feel this NEED to get that. There is a special place for those people who actually write their own stuff because it feels more personal especially when I can hear their voice in my head as I read the pages. Somehow you get a feel as to who is actually brave enough to unburden themselves on the pages from those who paint only the lovely exteriors while intentionally deluding their readers that they are being completely honest.

To be quite honest, I don't think that the writers have ever been "completely honest" about themselves when they write because not everything can be honest about a human being. Not everything is exciting and the stuff that is written in the book is required to be exciting so people will buy the book. If you are only writing for yourself then you make a journal or a private diary and for-your-eyes only. Perhaps there is so much more truth in it that a lot of them get hidden or burned (like mine).

It is still up to writer to determine what readers might want and to what extent can you "humanize" yourself to become vulnerable enough to reap the benefits and criticisms from readers. You still factor in whether the book is interesting enough for strangers to spend money on. Is it enough to hold their attention to get to the next chapter or AT LEAST turn to the next page or AT LEAST open the book. It is not easy at all. Some writers who are excellent storytellers have NOTHING to say about themselves or refuse to say anything and those end up being turned into biographies and readers get second, third, fourth-hand information about them. You finish reading the book and though you feel some sort of mystery uncovered, you know deep inside that if that the person in question would have said things a whole lot different. You hope that they agreed on some of the accounts based upon the evidence and references dug up.

So I just finished reading "Elvis by the Presleys."  As a longtime Elvis fan, I've been a fan since I was 12, if I had come across this book at that age, I would be shaking like a leaf. I would have considered this book absolute truth. There were hardly any libraries when I was growing up. The libraries were very limited to academic textbooks and the occasional fairytales. Most of the books I wanted to read could be found in private collections like my uncle and auntie had at their homes. My uncle kept his in the basement while my auntie had her books displayed at the porch. If you thought with such access I would be able to read as much as I wanted, you are mistaken. I could not take them out longer than a couple of days. I craved biographies, autobios and history books so much. Tragically, there were hardly any bookstores that would cater to my cravings either. Even if there were, buying books is considered a luxury. For as long as I have lived in Zamboanga City, I have never bought a single book. I didn't have to buy textbooks because the schools provided them.

I was finally able to experience a library when I was already in high school. The library was still very much limited but it did provide more variety than I could ever imagine. However, taking out books was still strict and most of the books I have been able to take out were for school assignments only. If I wanted to read something for my pleasure, I will have to find time to do it when I was in school. But since I discovered Elvis before entering high school, I have only been able to read about him through the encyclopedia P. I would have some pages xeroxed and that's about it. We didnt' have any encyclopedias at home either. We could not afford that.

As a teen, my hunger for "behind-the-scenes" just increased and I became obsessed with finding things about my family. I would go to my grandparents' home and just listen to their stories about their children. I would listen to opinions about my aunties and uncles about my father. Anything I could get, I wrote them in my diaries. Unfortunately, my father discovered them and like every dutiful Gestapo would do, I was made to burn them. Whenever I think about that day, I wonder if my father even remembered that. He never knew what an impact that gave me. I can never bring them back. A lot of history were in those notebooks all up in flames.

To curb that frustration and loss, I threw myself to reading romance novels. Some of them were from my mom's old collections, "reference books" as far as she is concerned. My mother is not a romance writer type. She only wrote love stories for the work being a scriptwriter for radio. Her forte was crime stories. My cousins had romance novels too, Mills and Boon mostly. My aunties would freak out when she caught any of us reading it so we traded these books like they were government secrets. Thankfully, my mother did not share in the freaking out since SHE has written love stories herself. She did not mind my cousins borrowing her volumes of bookbinded scripts. I too have immersed myself in those books. My mother did not mind. My father did and so I only read them whenever he was not around. The smaller novels were easier to hide.

I think losing all of my mother's scripts and books from the fire that razed our entire community was more painful. I can only imagine how my mother must have felt. All those years of careful storage and compilation, gone in flames. We could not save any of them. Perhaps if my father did not force me to burn my diaries, maybe they would have resulted in the same as my mother's books. But meh, my father could not wait that long.

When we moved to Manila, my book collection really has not improved. The library we had in college was as depressing as the waiting area of a morgue. There were only textbooks upon textbooks. I did not have the funds to purchase my own books. The National Library was not exactly the most convenient way to acquire books. The ONLY way I could be lucky to read a few was when I go to National Bookstore and even then, most of the books I wanted to read were encased in plastic.

It was only after my parents FINALLY separated that I have been able to slowly grow my book collection on various topics. The trend of thrift books, second-hand books became so widely popular that it fed my craving even more. I felt like I had to make up for years of book starvation. There were so many, many, many books and magazines to dive into. Still a lot of the good stuff eluded me because of financial capacity to aquire them. I got into Japanese manga and with the massive popularity and convenience of the internet, it was very easy to borrow, trade and share electronic books and manga files to friends for free. Through the years, my mother, brother and me have been able to collect so many, many books and magazines. Even my brother collected phone books and newspapers.

But with such easier access to reading materials online as well as offline, somehow I was able to develop a sense of what is trashy trash from the interesting. As much as I am still drawn to biographies, histories and memoirs, I can go through a few pages and feel that I have not even scratched the surface of their truest and innermost thoughts. Some are brave enough to spill the beans and allow themselves to look destroyed enough to look cool and interesting. Some are open enough to become scandalous and provocative.

Being a fan of Elvis and The Beatles, I found out that there is so much books written about them. However, no one can really know about them than the very people themselves. We are only left with their legacy through their music and influences. But with this "Elvis by the Presleys" book which I borrowed from the library is filled with a private collection of eye candies. This is the kind of book you read for absolute leisure and pleasure.  Even if you did not know about the guy, reading the book is enough to entertain you with the all the Elvis "artifacts" featured in each page.  After reading it, you are still as stumped as anyone to find out who the real Elvis really was. He remains to be an enigma even to his own family. This does not stop the fact that I am still a fan although I have much better things to do in my life now than obsess about him like I did when I was 12. I still dream of going to Graceland one day. That would be the ultimate destination for every Elvis fan. Same with The Beatles, perhaps visiting Strawberry Fields in Central Park, NY would be enough. Going to Liverpool would be too rich for me.

I have just finished going through the pages of Upstairs and Downstairs (The Illustrated Guide to the Real World of Downton Abbey) book which I also borrowed from the library and it surely has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I have to read it some more to understand further. So far I have realized that the whole trend of maid and butler cafes and Japanese anime about butlers and maids have NOTHING to do or even come close to the truths, drudgery and discipline to the people who ACTUALLY lived them. I am not saying that this kind of work was negative for their parts. Not at all. But it opened my eyes to appreciating that it was A REAL OCCUPATION, a WAY OF LIFE for the folks at the time. It was not the superfluous and narrow-minded view of what it is all about these days especially in the cosplay scenes.. Now when I look at cosplays of maids and butlers, it only reflects as to how limited and how little these people think of those people who actually worked as maids and butlers. It's almost disrespectful of their memory and lifestyle. Thank goodness even when I was still ignorant of maids and butlers, I never found any interest in cosplaying them at all. I have been spared of that.

I read Ellen Degeneres' "Seriously..I'm Kidding" book and that had zero seriousness at all. It was a go-to book for your amusement needs. You like to read someone fun, popular and still make you part of the in-crowd then this is the book for you. It is not shallow, okay. I like Ellen. I think she is wonderful. As I was reading her book, I wanted to have a copy of my own but afterwards, I am just glad I was able to read it from cover to cover but I do not see myself putting this as part of my collection. The challenge I now face being a bookworm with the ability to collect is determining a book whether it is a keeper. Is this something that will still be relevant to me next year? Is this something I will not be ashamed to share to my child? Is this something I do not mind recommending to someone else?  I get pickier if it is a book that I have to spend money on. It better be worth every cent. So far I have been lucky to find really good books for free. I have a collection of hardbounds, paperbacks and ebooks. I need to find the time to go through them all.

I do not think that a reader should feel obligated to read a book from cover to cover unless it is the Qur'an. Other than the Qur'an, allow yourself the freedom to sift through books to your content and level of interest. I have given away so many books to friends, family and even strangers. I have sold them to whomever found them interesting. The ones I treasured in the past but no longer holds relevance in my life, I give them away to dear friends. For a long time, I felt that I should read books from cover to cover. This has contributed to the fact why a lot of my books have not been read yet. That has changed. Thank goodness!

My current book craves are Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir, Dolphy and the first 30 decades of Eat Bulaga. Looks like these will cost money to acquire but I think they're worth it. I have been lucky enough to get Corey Feldman's 'Coreyography'. Surprisingly I am reading great reviews about it. I was also able to borrow Patrick McManus's books from the library. Oh, I LOVE this author so much. I wish to complete my collection of his books.

I feel very fortunate to be a daughter of a writer. I am also married to a husband who is a reader, a walking trivia and collector. A mother-in-law who is a writer. A father-in-law who is also a reader and filled with information. Now a daugter who likes reading too. I feel much more relaxed to write my stories and keep a journal without the threat and fear of being discovered. I feel like my life has come full circle.  Alhamdulillah!
fighting neko

My FIRST planetarium experience



Last Sunday we decided to visit The Catawba Science Center and watch an underwater documentary feature called "Into the Deep" in the planetarium. You know this is my very first time to be inside a planetarium. I mean, I know what it's for and I have seen people in movies and TV look like when they're inside but I do not know exactly what to expect if I ever did experience it for myself.

The Philippines has a planetarium. In Manila where I grew up, there was a planetarium that was constructed during the Marcos time. My parents never took me there because there was an age limit thing. I dunno. By the time I was in college, it was long closed and I hear people say that there was no assurance if it will ever be open again. Some said that it needed serious updating with regards to its technology and information. I think it's really sad that it stayed closed for a long time. It gave off that impression that it was something that didn't matter anymore or was another sad reminder how much the education system has sucked through the years. As of writing, I still do not know the status of the Manila Planetarium. I might have to look it up soon.

So there we were inside the planetarium. There were two other families who joined us but there really was only a handful of people including us who were in there. There were many vacant seats around. It was like a MOVIE THEATER! The differences were the seats. They had a higher back support. The screen that was situated on the ceiling. The controls were manned by just one person and it's located at the center of the planetarium. I was so excited!

It has been YEARS from the last time Duston has been in a planetarium. This is a first for me and Shamsa. I was concerned that she might get bored or restless but she wasn't at all. She was completely mesmerized by it all.

I think it was quite interesting that mankind's curiosity of the deep sea life was prompted by a familiar person in Philippine history, Ferdinand Magellan. For years, school has taught me and focused on him as being the first European who claimed to have "discovered" the Philippines. He was an explorer and navigator alright but we were never oriented by the fact that it was finding out whether there was life in the deep blue sea that got him near the Philippines in the first place. I am beginning to wonder if the reason why he bothered coming to the Philippines because it was so conveniently located near the Mariana Trench which is the deepest part of the world's oceans where he tried to find out just how deep it was. He was in the Mariana Islands on March 7, 1521 and then he arrived in the Philippines on March 16, 1521. It was very much short-lived by the following day. Chief Lapu-Lapu made sure of that.

But going back to watching Into the Deep, I find it incredible that despite CENTURIES of mankind's attempts to discover about ocean life, we have merely scratched ONE PERCENT of it. As the narrator said it was akin to discovering JUST ONE elephant. It was only in the 60s when we learned about Bioluminescence or "cold light" emitted by the jellyfishes that were found at around 10,000 meters deep. It was incredibly fascinating to know that bioluminescence power was 100% brighter compared to a light bulb which was only a mere 5%. Can you imagine that? I didn't even know that!

I am watching all the spectacular and mind-blowing discoveries and the fact that even if you put all the highest mountain peaks together, none of them would even reach the surface of the sea. Mankind has only been able to touch about 11,000 meters. Yet there is so much more mysteries surrounding the ocean floor.

All I could utter was "SUBHANALLAH!" Praise be to Allah. I willed myself not to cry as I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer majesty and vastness of the universe. There was a 7-minute bonus feature about "The Winter Sky" and that added to my already mind-blown brain. I remembered what Imam Khalil said in a Taleem speech which I am transcribing and he mentioned that scientiests only know things up to a certain point. When they do not have the answers, they label it as yet to be discovered or further studies are still undergoing. But for the believers, we simply say, "God." I am definitely no scientist. But what the Qur'an teaches, a lot of it has been recently proven to be true by science. The Qur'an is scientifically sound yet it is not a mere science book. It is so much more intense than any book in the world. It is a guide to a way of life in this world and the Hereafter. It is the LAST REVELATION and holds all the answers to every mystery if we only know where to look and how to interpret it.

Nothing in this universe is random. I believe that visiting a planetarium should be part of da'wah. It is incredibly effective. It was such a humbling experience. It made me realize even more that we have no reason to be arrogant in this life. We cannot claim to know it all. Even the most brilliant person cannot rest on his/her laurels and feel vastly intellectually superior. We are not. We are so lost. We are so needy of the One Creator. Without Him, we are nothing. Nothing in this universe is an accident. The Big Bang Theory is nothing more than a TV show. It will ONLY remain a theory. That is that. One cannot simply deny that someone is in control of everything because simple logic and common sense tell you that there is someone who is indeed in control of everything. The universe is not a big playground for His amusement. We are not his pawns to play with. There is a wisdom in each and everything around us and happens to us. We are all here for a reason and one reason alone and that is to worship HIM and no one else. Our very nature, our very soul is aligned to that. This is what we are made for. He gave us all the tools to examine and discover and study His provisions. We DEFINITELY have ABSOLUTELY NO reason to be arrogant and flippant. I believe that to deny God's existence is simply denying one's very own existence.

I am extremely grateful to my husband for taking me and Shamsa to experience this unforgettable lesson. To appreciate Allah more than ever. To remind us of our mortality and how much we have yet to learn. This was truly an emotional and spiritual experience.

fighting neko

Kimi wa boku no taiyou

happy dance

I find myself drawn yet again to the lovely works of Yumeka Sumomo. I have kept some of her works for years but now I just want to have them al, anything I can have access to, I will find it and get itl. After reading the first manga I came across, I just knew right there that if there was any mangaka I would love to illustrate my stories, it would be her. She has captured the style and emotions that I have always been looking for. I have been drawn to so many, many artworks but it's one thing to admire them for what they depict for themselves and another to feel strong affinity towards it.

I am bewitched and completely enthralled by her artwork and the fleeting passion it resonates. The stories she has made vary from the completely shallow to the lovable deep. I could relate to that so much because I have written stories in this manner. Her works do not intimidate. They could easily seep in to the consciousness akin to loving a cookie so much that you still keep the jar because of the delight it brought you when it was still full of cookies. The sweetness has never left you. Even if the jar is old but whenever you see it, it makes you smile. This is exactly how I feel about Sumomo-sensei's works.

She has gotten me to revisit my love for manga reading again. I was quite voracious for some years but I have put it off since I arrived here in the US. But now I am completely drawn to them again although it is only HER works in particular that I crave the most. I have yet to be disappointed of what I have read so far and what I have been able to acquire. I do not claim that I will be nose deep into manga reading again and leaving wild reviews like I did before.

I only LIKE HER. I only WANT her works to read manga-wise. Perhaps the inspiration to get into my story writing will be rejuvenated sometime in the near future. I have already decided to switch gears when it comes to the genre. I believe I have some more stories to write about. Right now I am going to take all the inspirational marrow of Sumomo-sensei's works. I adore them. To think that she always feels disappointed that her works are not quite good but that by itself is attractive enough for me. The fact that she feels that way yet she continues to keep writing and drawing is incredibly moving for me.

I love her whimsy. I love her heroes and heroines and her random characters. I love how she draws them to be attractive yet invokes sympathy from its readers. Not the sappy type of sympathy, of course. It makes you want to be their friend or at least someone who is there to listen and take the time to read and reflect. I am mesmerized by its sentimentality and simplicity. How it caters to the young at heart.

I am so excited to read this. My Girl. I think my heart is going to squee.

fighting neko


profile, cool
Just got the call yesterday that my lab exam results and Pap smear came out NORMAL! ALHADULILLAH! ALLAHU AKBAR! I felt overwhelmingly relieved beyond measure. I have been feeling very concerned about it especially the Pap test since I don't remember ever getting one before. I mean, I have had pelvic exam done to me while I was pregnant and right afterwards. I feel so happy!

I was planning on telling my mom about it but we only got to talk for five minutes until her cellphone load ran out. I don't feel exactly up to my 100% yet but the lab tests coming out normal is an answered prayer. I still experience headaches and occasionally my blood pressure would rise. I still have my abdominal cramps which usually happens whenever I have my period. And of course my lactose intolerance. I do have Lactaid for it but I don't like having to take too many pills for almost everything. I am still the type who will exhaust conservative means before ultimately heading to a doctor.

Duston and Shamsa will be scheduled for their annual physicals very soon and I hope and pray that their results will come out normal as it did mine.
fighting neko

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October 2014


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